The St. Louis Blues went on the road and beat the Minnesota Wild 5-2 in Game 5 after trailing 2-1 in the second period. The Blues battled adversity and stuck with it, leading to a massive road win and a 3-2 series lead.
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The Blues showed a lot of gumption, as the great Blues television color analyst Darren Pang would say. They continue to battle through injuries and make the right plays more often than not.
Welcome to the Tarasenko Show
What an unbelievable performance from Vladimir Tarasenko in the third period, as he netted three goals and led the Blues to their 5-2 victory. It took just five shots on goal for him to net the three goals, and he was clearly on in the third period after some struggles in previous games. It was a great time for him to take the game over and record a hat trick.
For the series, Tarasenko now has four goals and an assist for five points, but his numbers don’t tell the entire story though. There have been some rough games for him, but he has been elite in two games and Game 5 was his best playoff performance in a long time. He now has five playoff runs with four goals or more, including the 10 goals he had during the Blues’ Stanley Cup victory in 2019.
It seems clear that Tarasenko saw the performance that fellow Russian Kirill Kaprizov was putting on and decided to put the Blues on his back. He has the ability to turn a game on a dime and he did that in Game 5, as the Wild had a lot of momentum during the 2-2 tie in the third period, but he struck with two goals in less than two minutes. It doesn’t matter who he plays with, he’s going to help create scoring chances and that was on display in Game 5.
Blues’ Penalty Kill Struggling Mightily
Let’s get the negative stats out of the way second, the Blues went 0-for-2 on the penalty kill in this game, allowing both goals on the Wild’s power play, and both of them were scored by Kaprizov. They have to find a way to slow him down, as he has been the best player on either side in the series. The penalty killing issues are not on the goaltending either, it’s just a failure to clear the puck or be in the right spot, which was an issue for Colton Parayko in Game 5.
Parayko had a rough game after a brilliant Game 4, and this has become the norm for him. His inconsistency has been on display for quite some time, but hopefully, this means that he’ll be great again for Game 6. The Blues’ penalty kill should improve as Robert Bortuzzo gets healthier since he is a major part of the unit.
The good thing is that they made a couple of small mistakes rather than unfixable big mistakes. All they have to do is cover Kaprizov and clear the puck with every chance. Easier said than done, but I expect them to watch some of the tape from Game 5 and figure out how to fix their penalty kill and get it back to normal, as it was the fifth-ranked unit in the regular season. It was also ranked third in the entire playoffs before Game 5, so it hasn’t been a constant issue throughout the series.
Binnington Comes Up Big Again
It was another tremendous effort from Jordan Binnington, who kept them in the game with some huge saves. It certainly helps that the Blues took their game up a notch after Tarasenko’s ice-breaking goal to make it 3-2, but that was allowed to happen thanks to the saves from Binnington. Both Binnington and Ville Husso have shown flashes of brilliance in this series.
Binnington stopped 30 of 32 shots for the game and all 30 when the Blues were at even-strength. There wasn’t much he could have done on the two goals by Kaprizov, who has an unbelievably good shot. He now has a .933 save percentage (SV%) in two games played in the series, and the four goals he has allowed have not been weak by any means.
With the Game 5 victory, Binnington became the Blues’ winningest goaltender in playoff history with 18 wins, surpassing both Mike Liut and Greg Millen. As for the rest of the top five, Curtis Joseph, Grant Fuhr, and Brian Elliott rank three through five. Of course, the difference is that he now has the most wins out of them all and the only Cup in franchise history. What a wild career it has been for him, who has been both polarizing and brilliant at the same time in his time with the Blues.
The Blues have a chance to close out the Wild on Thursday in Game 6, where they are sure to have a packed house at the Enterprise Center. The last time they closed out a series at home was the 2019 Western Conference Final against the San Jose Sharks when they beat them 5-1. This is going to be a great battle to the finish and the Blues must continue to be the aggressor in the enormous Game 6 to come.